Spiritual Parenting :
As I have said before, my wife, Diane and I have seven children. Although they are all now adults, they weren’t always. In fact, as a home-school family on the mission field of San Francisco, our kids were almost always together and that made conflict and competition a normal part of our lives. It seems like Diane and I were often intervening in some kind of dispute or disagreement. This is why it became essential to give our children the gift of community by teaching them to love one another, share with one another, forgive one another and persevere with one another.
In a natural family, children thrive on a sense of connectedness. Family is where the value for community is introduced and imparted. The same is true with spiritual family. Every believer needs to be committed to some kind of ongoing fellowship with other believers in order to grow. Community teaches us that we are not alone, that we are not self-sufficient, and that we deeply need one another. Let’s look at three different aspects of community that bring life to every church.
The first step in developing community is to understand the capacity for communication. For the first several years of a child’s life, communication is mostly nonverbal, but as the child learns words and forms sentences, communication becomes easier. The same is true for a new believer coming into God’s family. Initially they won’t know the lingo, the Bible, or even the “rules” of the house, so they need to be lovingly instructed as to how to become part of the community.
The importance of communication grows deeper and deeper as a person matures in Christ. The ability to share our hearts with one another, to communicate our needs and desires—these are part of what it means to be a family. We can’t assume that everyone who comes to Christ—or even every person who already knows Him—has the ability to communicate well, so we need to develop a culture of clear communication and help people understand one another.
Generosity in Sharing
One of the first things a child needs to learn is how to share. Initially sharing centers on toys and food, but as adults it means our time, talents, and money. The foundation of community is generosity. When the early church gathered together, Scripture says they had “all things in common.” That is an incredible level of sharing among the saints. People in the family need to be taught how to share. They need to be taught how to give, how to tithe, how to love others in practical ways. Why? Because that is what community is all about.
This is why I believe so strongly in the power of small groups. Sunday services accomplish many wonderful things but they can never teach us to share life with each other like a small group can do. There are many different small group models, some can be ingrown and of minimal value. At Pastors Coach we have developed a small group model that maximizes the sharing of gifts and actually serves as a personal destiny incubator: Each member helping each other discover and fulfill God’s calling in each person’s life.
Community isn’t only built —- it must also be lovingly maintained day-to-day. This happens through healthy conflict resolution. As a dad I repeatedly had to train my children to admit when they were wrong and to ask for forgiveness. Many people grow up with a sense of guilt and shame, and when facing conflict they will resort to defensiveness, blame, and accusation. We must train people in the truth of Scripture: that love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and never fails. We need to believe the best about each other, and we need to stand strong against the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10).
As we teach our spiritual children to “not let the sun go down on their anger” and “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace” we will cultivate a culture of forgiveness that will demonstrate the love of Jesus to the earth.
The Gift of Community is one of the greatest blessings we can bestow on our spiritual sons and daughters. In order to accomplish this we must reject the tendency to be “passive-aggressive” in our leadership styles. We must be careful not to play favorites but be consistent in our instruction and correction. As we lovingly model and celebrate Kingdom Community, we will see our spiritual offspring grow into caring, mature and powerful spiritual adults.